Hawaii Five-O and product placement

My family are away in Spain without me at the moment, so I have been using my time wisely and watching all the back episodes of the remake of Hawaii Five-O.

A few things jump out for me.

1. It has the most unsubtle product placement I have ever seen, with the sponsors ‘Holiday Inn’ dragged into almost every story as some part of the plotline. So for example, when a witness needed to be moved, they sent her off to the Holiday Inn rather than an un-named hotel.

2. The cars throughout are Chevrolets. And I now want a Camaro. I guess it is a mid-life crisis, but I think it’s the sort of subtle car I need for cruising around Nottingham. It will sit well in our car park, next to Mich’s diesel Smart ForTwo. He would be sort of an offset for my huge fuel consumption if I drove this around town.

Chevrolet Camaro from Hawaii Five-O - I want one
Chevrolet Camaro from Hawaii Five-O - I want one

3. The series is so silly and glossy – almost like a a set designer has spent a few weeks watching Spooks over here and copied all their tech tricks.

4. There are some brilliant references to the old series though. My favourite so far was when McGarret was about to get Danno to do the line and he stopped him and said ‘Don’t even say it’ when he was about to say ‘book him Danno, Murder one’.

So does product placement work in this context?

For me, it has drilled the concept of going to Hawaii for my 50th into the front of my mind (in four years, before you ask), just so I can use the gag. And it’s made me want a Camaro, so yes, I guess it has.

Will I do either though?

I doubt it.

So Product placement works in a few ways. It changes perceptions for high value products and has a chance of conversion to a sale on low value, more immediate product.

If it’s done well and built into the story, it can work. Okay, more research.

Holiday Inn have rebranded and we can all learn from this

Holiday Inn rebrand - A rebrand borne out of listening to customers
Holiday Inn rebrand – A rebrand borne out of listening to customers

In our role, we see an awful lot of rebrands and we see a lot of awful rebrands.

But not so the rebrand of Holiday Inn, which in my opinion is spectacularly good. It should be for $1billion though.

I’m not impressed because they have created a swish new logo, because the one they have created is only fine. It’s certainly not groundbreaking, particularly different or revolutionary, it’s just fine.

What they have done brilliantly however is redesign the branded experience by listening to their customers.

You can see the story here

Holiday Inn rebrand

In their own (nicely crafted) words, they ‘Had a serious heart to heart with their guests – it was the biggest global dialogue that has ever happened in their category’

They are aiming to remind past present and lapsed customers, why they fell in love with them in the first place. Love is a great word in branding and its talked about a lot, but very rarely achieved. Only the real greats ever reach this status and we see them all over in Apple, Harley, Virgin, Sony and the other ‘Lovemarks’ brands.

They’ve taken control of the welcome, introduced (or reintroduced) friendly and efficient check in and even their signature sound and scent.


How many brands control their sound and scent?

I stayed in the Holiday Inn, in Back Bay, Boston and the staff were already superb. It was the friendliest hotel we stayed in during our whistlestop US tour but I’ve yet to stay in one of the refreshed ones.

If they can deliver worldwide on this very bold and public promise, that will be one of the most truly outstatnding rebrands ever seen.


In this really interesting piece on the Wall Street Journal it would appear that Holiday Inn are again doing the right thing by enforcing the switch of their brand from old to new. If you don’t update to their new standards by the end of 2010 they will dump you.

This is where most rebrands or brand implementations fall over. It’s nearly always bad implementation or a lack of implementation altogether. There is clearly a major cost implication for the Holiday Inn franchisees of $150-250k and some will not be able to justify the expense. This will effectively get rid of up to 300 existing operators who will then be ‘debranded’ altogether.

This may be a bit of a rough way to treat your business partners, but it’s vital to remember that one single bad brand interaction can undermine the whole branded experience. By getting rid of these 300 or so, they will reduce the average age of their hotel stock by 11 years to only 15 years old. This is a major percentage change and one that will ensure a more consistent branded experience across the world.

I was impressed before and as I’m not one of those 300 operators under threat, i’m still impressed. I wonder how this will play out in the long term?